catastrophism

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catastrophism

(kətăs`trəfĭzəm), in geology, the doctrine that at intervals in the earth's history all living things have been destroyed by cataclysms (e.g., floods or earthquakes) and replaced by an entirely different population. During these cataclysms the features of the earth's surface, such as mountains and valleys, were formed. The theory, popularly accepted from the earliest times, was attacked in the late 18th cent., notably by James Hutton, who may be regarded as the precursor of the opposite doctrine of uniformitarianismuniformitarianism,
in geology, doctrine holding that changes in the earth's surface that occurred in past geologic time are referable to the same causes as changes now being produced upon the earth's surface.
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.

Catastrophism, however, was more easily correlated with religious doctrines (e.g., the Mosaic account of the Flood) and remained for some time the interpretation of the earth's history accepted by the great majority of geologists. It was systematized and defended by the Frenchman Georges CuvierCuvier, Georges Léopold Chrétien Frédéric Dagobert, Baron
, 1769–1832, French naturalist, b. Montbéliard, studied at the academy of Stuttgart. From 1795 he taught in the Jardin des Plantes.
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, whose position as the greatest geologist of his day easily overbore all opposition. In the 19th cent., it was attacked by George Poulett Scrope and especially by Sir Charles LyellLyell, Sir Charles
, 1797–1875, British geologist. After studying and briefly practicing law, he spent most of his life in travel and in popularizing scientific ideas.
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, under whose influence the contrary doctrine gradually became more popular. Recent theories of meteorite, asteroid, or comet impacts triggering mass extinctionsmass extinction,
the extinction of a large percentage of the earth's species, opening ecological niches for other species to fill. There have been at least ten such events.
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 can be interpreted as a revival of catastrophism.

Bibliography

See R. Huggett, Catastrophism: Asteroids, Comets, and Other Dynamic Events in Earth History (1998); T. Palmer, Controversy: Catastrophism and Evolution: The Ongoing Debate (1999).

catastrophism

[kə′tas·trə‚fiz·əm]
(geology)
The theory that most features in the earth were produced by the occurrence of sudden, short-lived, worldwide events.
(paleontology)
The theory that the differences between fossils in successive stratigraphic horizons resulted from a general catastrophe followed by creation of the different organisms found in the next-younger beds.
References in periodicals archive ?
Catastrophists assume that as conditions get worse the likelihood that they will get better improves.
Their account is catastrophist, but effects several hundred kilometers downwind were ultimately beneficial because more open space for new game was created from tree kill-off.
Furthermore, concerns about severe climate harms are not just the pipe dreams of catastrophists.
2007) 'What the Catastrophist Heresy Can Teach Public Officials', Administrative Theory and Praxis, 29(4): 546-66.
His works include The Second Prison (1991), Overthrown by Strangers (1992), The Catastrophist (1997), Havoc, in its Third Year (2004) and Zugzwang (2007).
According to the research by the UBC, alarmist and catastrophist news focusing on the risk of natural disasters and the urgency of political and economic action "places the emphasis on the heroic efforts of abstract and distant individuals whose motives are not always clear".
In contrast to earlier catastrophist assertions, this theory recognized sea level as a uniformitarian phenomenon, which, argued Emmons (1836), was "not infrequent in our day" (p.
Continuing with an island theme, the following chapter covers Charles Darwin's visit to the Cape Verde Islands and more specifically examines his (then) catastrophist views and his "conversion" to the more gradualist views of landscape modification expressed by Charles Lyell.
I contend that archaeology's interests will be best served if we remain mindful that the catastrophist scenarios into which, in the spirit of our times, we and others commonly plug archaeological data are just one of a number of cultural constructions through which we might characterize human interaction with the natural world (van der Leeuw and Redman 2002; Pyburn 2006).
This evidence resulted in a wide acceptance of this catastrophist idea.
Another difference between the two models, says London-based RMS catastrophist Dr.
His list includes such things as the humoral theory of medicine, catastrophist geology, and theories of spontaneous generation.